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STRACEY **But the Lord kncnoelh the way of the righteous : and the way of the ungodly shall perish,** — PsALM i, 6. THE book of Psalms is sometimes called the prayerbook of the saints. It has been in daily use among God's people for now 3,000 years. And there are few, if any, parts of Scripture which have had more effect upon men's hearts and lives than these holy songs of prayer and praise. Possibly many of us repeat their words day by day, and week by week, year after year, without much thought of their meaning; or, when it is otherwise, there are many passages which require explanation before we can rightly understand them and what they refer to. I trust, therefore, that it may not be unprofitable if by degrees, my brethren, I should go through the whole book of Psalms with you in order, as now in to-day's morning service I take this first psalm. Let us ask for God's blessing upon such a course, and He will assuredly grant it to us. We commonly call the whole book " The Psalms of David;" partly because the greater part of them were B
2 PSALM L written by him ; partlj because they refer throughout very especially to Christ the true Son of David; and . partly because the spirit which was in David runs through each of theuL In old time the book was divided into five parts, answering to the five books of Mosee. The first part contained the first forty-one psalms ; the second ended at Psalm Ixxii. And these two parts are
more especially the psalms of David ; for Psalm IxxiL ends thus : ^ And blessed be His glorious name for ever : and let the whole earth be filled with His glory ; Amen, and Amen. The words of David the son of Jesse are ended." The next three parts are ascribed to various authors, such as Moses, Ezra, Jeremiah, and Samuel, for instance. But whoever they were written by, under the teaching of God's Holy Spirit they are all alike inspired, and so have ever been received into the canonical books of holy Scripture. This first psalm, which we will very shortly consider to-day, comprises a contrast between the righteous and the wicked. It forms a sort of introduction or key to all the rest which follow, just as the last verse of the last psalm is a summing up of all that have gone before when it says : *' Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord." Its first word pronounces a blessing : " Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of the scornfuL" Thus it is with a blessing that all God's words and dealings with us begin and end. o sooner was man
GOD'S PROMISED BLESSI G. 3 created than we are told in the next verse, " And God blessed them." When our Lord began His public preaching in Judaea the first words of His sermon are the eight beatitudes : " Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye,
when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." And when at the close of all He was about to leave the twelve to found and to guide His Church on earth, " He lifted up His hands, and blessed them." Our life on earth through Christ is summed up in this: "We are hereunto called that we should inherit a blessing." And that will finally be bestowed when Christ shall say to His own people after the judgment of the last day : " Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you fix)m the beginning of the world." But all this present and future blessing promised us by God depends upon this, that "we delight in the law of the Lord, and practise it day and night." We all know how God's
• 4 PSALM /. primeval blessing upon Adam was soon turned into a curse. Sin and death entered into the world, and even the ground on which they trod was cursed for their sin, which had received Grod's first and abundant blessing. So it is still with all of us, if we, having been once rescued, restored, and forgiven through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, again fall away. And this first verse describes the gentle and gradual way in which a man falls away from God. He first is led to walk in the counsel of the imgodly, then to place himself in the sure way of new temptation, till at last he makes a scoff at God and His laws. In all of us the heart directs and rules the man. Whatever we set our hearts upon we follow after and aim at. As the wise man says : " Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." And it is on this account that God requires the first and chief place in all our affections to be given to Him. We must love the Lord our God with all our
heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. This is the first and great commandment. For whatever a man sets his heart upon, fhat becomes the object for which he daily lives and works and Ihinks. It matters not what it be. It may be our earthly relationships — wife and children, parents or brethren; or it may be earthly riches, lands and houses, which never satisfy; or worldly honour; or one or other of a thousand other objects in life. But whatever it is that the heart
LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE, 5 is set upon, that becomes the real object in life for which we live and plan. ow God lays hold of this natural tendency in us, and claims our aflfections supremely for Himself. He promises, if we do this, to give us all else that is good and best and necessary for us; but without it nothing in the end can either satisfy or please. " Seek first," He says (that is, before and above all other things), " the kingdom of God, and His righteousness ; and all other things shall be added unto you." I need not say that this is the very reverse of the common ways of life amongst us. Too many of us give up God's ways and God's service for any thing else* Some openly pursue the world altogether, and try entirely to dismiss the thought of God from their hearts ; and multitudes of others, who do not do this openly, really and in truth do it — almost, it may be, unknown to themselves. We balance the wishes of those about us against the commands of God, and foUow tliem, A hot day, or a cold day — any and every trifling event — interferes with and interrupts our 'perfect service of Christ. Or we put off, and again put oflf, our striving to attain to greater perfection of life and character tiU some more convenient season. Young persons think they will enjoy life, as they say, while they are young, and may banish God from their thoughts and hearts till some of their best years on earth are past. Older
persons think when they are old, that then they will serve God ; but this period never draws nearer. It
6 PSALM /. is as far off this year as it was last year ; and it will be so again and again, unless Qod should interpose some particular providence, as sometimes He does, to win them to Himself. Oh, my brethren, let not Satan whisper into your ears and hearts that it is easy to attain eternal life! Christ the Lord, who alone knew the hearts of all men, and is Himself the Way and the Truth and the Life, says to all of us, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for broad is the way of destruction, and many walk along it; narrow is the way of life, and few there be that find it." I wish we could all learn this : how easy it is to perish, how hard it is to be saved. And all issues out of this — the desire of the heart. They who shall attain to God's kingdom have here on earth their "delight in the law of the Lord ; and in His law they will exercise themselves day and night." " As for the ungodly, it is not so with them: but they are like the chaff which the wind scattereth away from the face of the earth." The one " bringeth forth his fruit in due season ;" the other "shall not be able to stand in the judgment." We wonder sometimes at the conduct of this or that man — how he can find any pleasure in many things which he does. Why does he go to church whenever he can? Why does he love God's house ? Why does he kneel down most reverently, and seem to take a delight in all acts of public worship ? Why does he come with unfailing regularity to the I/)rd's holy table? The
OUR HARVEST SURE. J
answer is here given us to all such questionings : " His delight is in the law of the Lord ; and in His law will he exercise himself day and night." And mark the further blessing which is promised here: "He shall be like a tree planted by the water side, that will bring forth his fruit in due season ; his leaf also shall not wither ; and look, whatsoever he doeth it shall prosper." We, my brethren, if we live and work for Christ, look not fbr any earthly reward or success. We are contented to wait for that, in the assurance and hope of receiving at last " the end of our conversation, even the salvation of our souls." We know not how our treasure grows above; but we know if our hearts be there, ** our labour is not in vain in the Lord." More surely than the tree produces its leaves and its fruit in due season after long waiting, shall we, though we wait long for our eternal reward, yet in the end have it. It will come ; it will not tarry for ever. Our hope begins to be fulfilled when, and only when, 9JI else in this world is past and gone. We have but to wait and to work, and the harvest is sure to us. othing fails that is sown unto God. He is a hard and austere master only to them who bury their talent in the earth, and live for it; but to them who trade with it for His honour, their five talents shall gain five cities; their two talents shall gain for them two cities. And above and beyond all that, they " enter into the joy of their Lord." Oh that we all had but the faith thus to live
8 PSALM L and work, day by day to live unto Grod, and to work on in order to win the heavenly reward! It is our own blindness and our own fault if we do not For God '' makes all things work together for good to them that love Him.'' We know how the snows and frosts of winter, followed by the showers and dews of spring,
and the bright suns of summer, how all these make the seed to produce its autumn harvest — ^" some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some an hundredfold." So with us. Be in earnest, by brethren ; but be patient. Work for God, and yet wait. othing lasts which is soon done, and soon perfected. What is best takes much time and care to bring it to maturity. Let us not desire a diflferent rule than this for ourselves in the highest and best matters of all — the preparation of our hearts for the life beyond the grave. God knows our ways and our works. Each day is registered in heaven our daily life, as we lead it ; each day adds one line or one page more to our book of life or of deatL Even our secret thoughts are there found traced in unfading ink against the final revelation of all things, and by angel hands, which never tire. "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish." They who live on earth for heaven shall inherit heaven ; they who centre aU their hearts and care in and for earth, shall reap their own perishing rewards when earth shall all pass away. They have sown unto the wind, and they will reap the whirlwind. " Sin, when it
REWARD HERE A D HEREAFTER. 9 is finished, bringeth forth death " — only death — a death which lives in its own perpetual continuance. Let us sum up all in our Lord's own words : " Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where rust and moth doth corrupt ; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.*' " His leaf shall not wither ; and look, whatsoever he doeth, it shaU prosper."
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